I want to write a lot more, of whatever type, but can't make myself so a friend gave me a topic, word lengths and deadline, and I immediately wrote this story. The topic is "Hungover in Dan Murphy's", which was great because they say write what you know. It should go without saying that every word below is true.
I was very hungover in an aisle in Dan Murphy's. It’s a strange experience as you’re trapped in Hell, surrounded by Heaven.
Bottles that normally look so inviting, when hungover just look like they contain toxic brews poisonous to the human body. Which, of course, the bastards do. Yet the mind remembers even when the body revolts. Those liquids offer Heaven. Used properly, of course. I won’t make last night’s mistakes again, even as I struggled to recall exactly what they all were.
This being 2020, I was wearing a mask. Its main advantage this morning was less keeping in coronavirus as the overpowering alcohol fumes that passed for my breath. No virus could survive in there, so the biggest hazard was I’d pass out from the trapped fumes. Still, breathing it back in might even pass as hair of the dog, though it wasn’t working to judge from the way each part of my body was insisting it was mortally wounded.
I rounded the corner and saw a young couple just as one said to the other, “honestly forget face masks, some people should be made to wear bum masks, the amount of shit they talk”. The other sniggered and agreed it was a fair point. I may have too if my brain wasn’t frozen stuck fast, lest a cell make a sudden movement and send waves of pain through my skull.
Which made the timing of what happened next unfortunate. Just behind the couple, a large swirling portal appeared next to the row of passion pop bottles. A large red tentacle emerged suddenly and snatched the startled couple back through the portal, which promptly vanished.
I stood there for a while before finally, gingerly, looking around. There was no one else in the shop but a bored guy behind a counter on the other side of the store, looking in the opposite direction.
This was not ideal. Was what I’d seen real, or had my feverishly hungover and possibly COVID-riddled brain (were hallucinations a symptom?) invented the entire scene, possibly as payback for all the red wine with beer, whisky then more red wine and then gin (I think) I subjected it to last night?
There was only one thing to do. I walked up to the passion pop aisle and decided a couple of bottles of ultra-low priced bubbles were definitely called for.
I took them across to the bored server, who scanned them and let me press my card against the machine, muttering that if I got a six pack of beer as well, I could get a stubby holder with the logo of some alcohol brand as a special deal.
I was less interested in a new stubby holder than in the blatant fact he gave no indication he’d seen a portal or a tentacle or a couple of young 20 somethings disappear to God knows where.
I could have mentioned it. I could have asked him if he’d ever seen magical portals open up in the store before. But low-wage work is a drag at the best of times, and when you add the economic downturn shedding jobs everywhere right now, I decided not to add to his stress.
After all, if it wasn’t real, he had no reason to worry. If it was, then he’d probably be scared enough to abandon his post, leave the store and lose a badly needed job. Assuming he escaped with his life. No, let him scroll his phone in an ignorance I was already envying.
As I walked outside, the late morning sun hit my face flush on. I grasped the passion pop bottles tighter -- I was going to need them to make this pain disappear.
I stopped to take a breather from the exertion of walking 10 metres from the counter and sat on a seat I prayed was not infected and thought about it. This was exactly the sort of shit that 2020 would pull. Unprecedented bushfires, an out of control global pandemic and the sudden appearance of menacing portals with human-snatching tentacles.
Still, I thought, at least I don’t live in the US. There, tentacles emerging from portals would probably be defended by Trump so long as they disproportionately targetted minorities. He’d probably try to contract the portals to do “security” at voter booths in November to assist with voter suppression plans.
Somehow I made it home alive, a miracle given my hangover let alone the threat from unexplained tentacle-porthole snatchings. Then two things happened.
One was that I drank a bottle and three quarters of passion pop and passed out on my couch in the early evening before waking up at midnight feeling worse than the morning.
And the other thing was that I never saw a portal, with or without a tentacle, ever again. But as all of us who survived know, given what happened next in that accursed year 2020, that was the least of the planet’s worries.